Jimmy Howard: The next Red Wings' Goaltending Great?
Sawchuk won three Stanley Cups with the Winged Wheel, had a ton of shutouts and when it comes down to it, will always be remembered as one of the best goaltenders in NHL history. The Red Wings’ franchise also had great goaltenders such as Mike Vernon, Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood who all won Cups with the club.
With the exception of “the Dominator”, however, none of these masked men were elite. Right now, it is clear that the Red Wings have an elite goaltender in Jimmy Howard.
The 29-year-old Red Wings’ netminder may have been the losing goaltender of record in his team’s 2-1 Game 7 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last season, but Howard is exactly the big-time goaltender that the Red Wings need going forward.
With a six-year pact and terrific regular season and postseason, Howard is doing exactly what the organization needs him to do. He is showing that he can be consistent, play in big games and more importantly, is proving that he is the goaltender of both the now and future for the Red Wings.
When it comes to consistency, Howard was one of the game’s top goaltenders in the regular season this year. He finished the shortened season with 21 wins (seventh in the league), posted a 2.13 GAA (ninth in the league), stopped .923 percent of the shots he faced (ninth in the league) and picked-up five shutouts (first in the league).
Without the likes of Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Brad Stuart, Howard played behind a young Red Wings’ defensive corps this season and flourished. Time and time again, he bailed out his club and was the main reason when the team won hockey games.
Secondly, Howard proved last season that he can be a big-game goaltender for his hockey club. Going into the final week of the season, the Red Wings basically needed to win out in order to make the postseason.
Howard went ahead and won four straight games, stopped 93 of 97 shots and had two shutouts. The Syracuse, NY-born Howard was the club’s best player and was the main reason why the Red Wings were able to sneak into the postseason as the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
The Red Wings’ star goaltender kept up his big-game ability by winning a Game 7 against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. In that final game of the series, Howard stopped 31 of 33 shots and was once again the reason why the Wings won the hockey game.
Howard was also brilliant against the Blackhawks. Howard’s fine play between the pipes had the Blackhawks down 3-1 after four games and his terrific play in Game 7 almost got his team into the Western Conference Finals for the first time 2009.
Howard was especially good in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers last night at the Joe Luis Arena. Howard gave his team every opportunity to win a hockey game as he stopped 37 of 40 shots, many of them of the quality scoring chance variety.
This season, Howard has played in many games where he has faced over 30 shots. He may not have won all these games this season but for the most part, he has played well enough to give his team a chance to win by making key saves at the right time and keeping the game close.
The Red Wings may still be in the process of re-tooling their hockey club but when it comes to what they have between the pipes, it is clear that Howard is everything and more to the Red Wings and that with him in net, there is a potential to accomplish great things.